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Enrollment Marketing: Engaging the Next Generation of Students

Enrollment Marketing: Engaging the Next Generation of Students

Higher education enrollment marketing is a challenging proposition because the parameters are constantly changing. As new generations of students look to attend college, institutions have to contend with a continually evolving set of expectations and ways of consuming information. 

Especially as recruitment increasingly depends on enrollment marketing, building a comprehensive marketing plan for school enrollment becomes especially relevant. That enrollment plan must demonstrate a complete understanding of the audience, these changing expectations, and a comprehensive plan to address these needs. 

In this guide, you'll learn about effective strategies for engaging the next generation of students, driving enrollment growth, and increasing long-term engagement with your current students.

Table of Contents:

The Importance and Challenges of Reaching Gen Z

Marketers across industries agree: Gen Z might be the most challenging generation to reach yet. They've grown up with the internet, and they know their way around it -- including identifying and blocking ads. 

And yet, Gen Z is a critical audience for colleges and universities. Born between 1997 and 2012, this generation is now between 11 and 26 years old. That means your prospective students, current students, and young and engaged alums are all members of Gen Z.

McKinsey research found that Gen Z primarily searches for truth, which makes them naturally suspicious of anything that seems like advertising. Orienting your enrollment marketing plan around this fact can go a long way toward building more effective marketing channels and outreach efforts.

Identify and Understand Your Audience to Drive Enrollment Marketing Success

More than any generation that came before it, Gen Z prefers customized communication specifically relevant to their interests. As a result, an in-depth understanding of your audience is more important than ever to ensure you can build relevant messaging, pushed out at the right time and through the proper channels.

Comprehensive reports like this Gen Z audience profile can get you started. But be sure to build on your own research as well, using surveys and insights from student-facing personnel to better understand who this new generation is and what makes them tick.

Use Personal Connections to Help You Build Student Relationships

Gen Z prefers authentic brands that are believable and connect with them, yet don't overdo it. For your communications and enrollment marketing, that means customized messaging and personalization where possible to create lasting relationships.

Emails from individual campus experts are better than mass emails from a faceless office. The voice should sound less institutional and more like a peer-to-peer relationship. The more you can personalize your marketing efforts, the more likely you'll become to engage with this audience.

Establish a Presence that Your Audience Will Find Relevant and Engaging

Of course, it's not just about pushing out messages to your audience. When they want to learn about your institution, they'll also look to your online presence -- and what they find can make all the difference in how they feel about your school.

In other words, you have to get the user experience right. That means making your website and its navigation as intuitive as possible but also taking a closer look at your other digital channels. Curating a YouTube channel or Instagram profile can go a long way toward engaging your prospective and current students with engaging content. 

Interactive and visual content marketing can make that effort even more effective. Gen Z loves video, and they love being able to design their own experiences even more. Platforms that cater to these preferences can go a long way toward reaching and engaging the next generation.

Leverage New Technologies in Your Enrollment Marketing Plan

It's time to talk about your MarTech stack. The technologies you use to engage your audience can be just as important as the messages and channels you use to reach them. They have to both account for your audience's preferences and naturally fit into your broader enrollment marketing plan.

Take text messaging as an example. It's not a surprise to say that SMS messages need to be a part of your recruitment effort. But what technologies work best in this arena? Ideally, conversational two-way text messaging systems with built-in auto-responders and admissions counselor redirects will work better than simple platforms designed to push your messages. 

The same applies to other marketing-related technologies, as well. A modern CRM, for example, can go a long way toward understanding your audience and optimizing your efforts accordingly. Similarly, influencer marketing platforms can help you strategically leverage another common Gen Z preference.

Tracking Effectiveness and Results Can Lead to Ongoing Marketing Improvements

Of course, the same thing remains true for Gen Z that applies to every other generation: general best practices can only take you so far. Ultimately, if you know where to look, your marketing efforts will provide the biggest and best barometer of your audience's preferences and needs.

Track your marketing efforts, from individual text and email messages to your larger website and social media presence. Identify trends in how prospective students engage with your content and which channels prompt them to action. Then, use those insights to build a strategy designed for ongoing marketing improvements to continue optimizing your strategy and execution.

Create Effective Enrollment Marketing Strategies Designed to Engage the Next Generation

The next generation is already here. Effectively reaching and engaging Gen Z is vital to your recruitment and retention. And that starts with understanding common preferences within this demographic and executing tactics designed to meet those needs. 

It's a lot of work. Fortunately, you don't have to do it on your own. Working with a dedicated higher education marketing team means having a partner on your side. 

Ready to get started? Let's chat! 

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FAQ Recap:


Why is reaching and engaging Gen Z challenging for higher education enrollment marketing?

Reaching and engaging Gen Z is challenging because they have grown up with the internet, are adept at identifying and blocking ads, and are naturally suspicious of traditional advertising. Understanding their preferences, such as a preference for authentic and personalized communication, is crucial for effective enrollment marketing.


How important is audience identification and understanding in driving enrollment marketing success for Gen Z?

Gen Z prefers customized communication relevant to their interests. Identifying and understanding this audience is crucial for building messaging that resonates, ensuring it is delivered at the right time, and through the appropriate channels.


Why is personalization important in enrollment marketing for Gen Z?

Gen Z prefers authentic brands and personalized communication. Personalization in enrollment marketing, such as emails from individual campus experts and peer-to-peer communication, helps build lasting relationships with this audience.


What role does an institution's online presence play in engaging Gen Z?

An institution's online presence is significant in engaging Gen Z. The user experience on the website, intuitive navigation, and curated content on platforms like YouTube and Instagram contribute to how prospective and current students feel about the school.


How can new technologies be leveraged in enrollment marketing for Gen Z?

New technologies, such as conversational two-way text messaging systems, modern CRMs, and influencer marketing platforms, can be leveraged to align with Gen Z's preferences. These technologies need to fit into the broader enrollment marketing plan and account for the audience's preferences.


Why is tracking effectiveness and results essential for ongoing marketing improvements?

Tracking marketing efforts provides insights into how prospective students engage with content and which channels prompt them to take action. Analyzing these insights helps in identifying trends and optimizing strategies for ongoing marketing improvements to meet the evolving needs of Gen Z.


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